Every year, the people who produce marketing materials for their Medicare members are extremely busy from April through September. Deadlines are tight and timelines are aggressive for creating, printing and mailing the Annual Notice of Changes (ANOCs), Evidence of Coverage (EOCs) and Summary of Benefits (SBs) documents. Very few people in these roles take vacation over the summer because they are rushing to get materials in their members’ hands by September 30.
Even though this is typical for most health plans, it doesn’t have to be case. By spreading production of these materials over the calendar year, health plans can avoid the bottlenecks and summertime peaks that increase the risk of compliance errors and missed deadlines, not to mention run teams ragged.
Here are seven ways health plans can start now to make creation of next year’s member marketing materials easier:
1. Conduct a post-mortem. A post-mortem with your team can be a great way to identify where you can make improvements for the next contract year. If you do this while the experience is still fresh in everyone’s minds, you can gather valuable feedback to implement in the course of the off-season.
The post-mortem should take an honest look at what went well and what didn’t during the creation of this year’s ANOCs, EOCs and SBs. Some suggestions on what to cover in this meeting include:
- Workflow – Where did the bottlenecks and backlogs occur?
- Reviews – Were reviews thorough and conducted in a timely manner?
- Resources – Were enough resources devoted to the project?
- Communications – How was communication between all involved throughout the process?
- Vendors – Was each vendor efficient and a valuable partner during the process?
- Timeline – Were any deadlines rushed or missed? If so, how should the timeline be adjusted for next year?
2. Prepare vendor contracts well in advance. Waiting to look for vendors right before you need them can cause serious timeline delays and possibly increase your health plan’s risk of errors. There’s no need to wait until the last minute to line up outsourced document creation, translations, print and fulfillment, and other vendor services for your member marketing materials.
After the post-mortem, identify what types of vendors you will need for the next contract year. As soon as your timeline allows you to grasp your critical needs, identify your vendors and put contracts in place. This way, they will be ready to go when you are.
3. Use automated processes wherever possible. Part of the difficulty with working on Medicare member materials is the sheer amount of manual processing that occurs. For instance, if you have to make a change and you aren’t using a master template of some kind to produce your documentation, you may need to make the same update in multiple plan documents.
Using a system like CodySoft®’s Collateral Management Module® significantly cuts down on this repetitive manual processing. Similarly, this software uses a “single source of truth” data grid to populate the benefit/copay values for all plans. Even if you are not using an automated process, keep your benefit information in a benefits grid so that you don’t have to look for the information in multiple places.
4. Update your grids and templates as information comes in. Health plans can do a lot in the fall, winter and early spring to prepare for the next Medicare contract year, as information becomes available. For example:
- If you have Errata sheets, update next year’s materials with the appropriate corrections
- Update EOC Chapter 2 contact information, Chapter 11 legal notices, and benefits grids with changes as you learn them. Don’t just stick the changes in a folder for updating in the spring.
- If you know you are going to have plan consolidations, are removing plans and cross-walking members to new plans, or are adding plans, you can update spreadsheets and prepare other relevant materials as soon as you know about the changes, for use when the time comes.
5. Maximize project management. Production of the ANOCs, EOCs and SBs can involve a multitude of internal teams, external vendors and seemingly countless tasks. Managing these projects from start to finish requires smart, solid project management, including:
- A project kickoff meeting – This meeting can set a proper tone, like: “We are all going to work smarter and do our best to complete the Medicare member materials on schedule and within budget.” It also can address the overall approach and allow team members the opportunity to ask and address questions for a smoother process.
- A strong project manager – A project manager who is a good communicator can mean the difference between success and failure on a project. A good project manager is also diligent about keeping everyone engaged and meeting project deadlines, and knows when to escalate to higher authorities issues that may be slowing the project down.
6. Staff appropriately and cross train. There is great benefit in having staff know each other’s roles and responsibilities, especially in a deadline-driven project environment like the annual Medicare contract year. If you have the right number of people and you cross-train them, you’ll never be in the position of being short-handed when you lose someone due to unforeseen circumstances.
Keep in mind, like team members in the Customer Service role, people involved in production of ANOCs, EOCs and SBs are a dedicated group under significant pressure. Ineffective resource and personnel management can lead to unhappy employees and staff turnover. Properly staffing and training your team is a great way to keep valuable experience in house, not to mention an excellent way to avoid expenses related to searching for, hiring and training new employees.
7. Simplify. Production of ANOCs, EOCs and SBs is complicated enough. Don’t burden your staff by making processes and procedures needlessly complex. Here are a couple of ways health plans can simplify the creation process:
- If your plan doesn’t already, consider sending the Pharmacy and Provider Directories together rather than separately. Many plans do this.
- When you conduct reviews, make sure that your compliance department is involved in the review process early. Don’t wait until near the end of the project and then have to edit the documents extensively because of late compliance review.
The Medicare member materials production project does not have to be a summertime struggle. Spreading certain tasks out over the calendar year – starting now – can significantly improve the process of developing your ANOCs, EOCs and SBs next year.
Cody specializes in increasing efficiencies for health plans. For help implementing any of the seven tips covered above, contact us today.